Thursday, August 4, 2011

mrs. bowls (lyn)

Every Saturday morning, Mrs. Bowls would come to our house.  She began coming when my youngest sister was born in 1956, and kept coming for the next 15 years or so.  Whenever she arrived, my mother would always greet her with, “Hi Mrs. Bowls.”  And she would always respond with, “Fine thank-you and you.”  Funny, the things we remember.

Mrs. Bowls was black.  Kind.  And helped my mom clean the house.  I think the respect between my mother and Mrs. Bowls was mutual.  Neither used the other’s first name. Mrs. Bowls came to our Bas Mitzvahs.  She took care of my two sisters and me when my parents were away.  When she was dying, my mom visited her, despite the fact that “only family was allowed.”  My mom considered herself part of her family, as she was part of ours.

Before coming to us, she worked for the Pope family for many years.  Dr. Pope died, young and unexpectedly, as he was dancing with his daughter at her wedding. He hadn’t yet prepared a will.  So each of his five daughters gave $5,000 to Mrs. Bowls, knowing their father would have remembered her.  She was loved and respected by many.

Tonight I helped organize a BAFTA screening for THE HELP, a movie about a group of maids in Mississippi during the 60’s.  While white families may not have held ownership deeds on their help, many were treated as if they did. 

Because I helped organize tonight’s screening, I got to meet two of its stars (Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer) and the very adorable and young writer/director (Tate Taylor).  I could be wrong, and it is still early in the year, but my prediction is that this film will win some major nominations during the upcoming award’s season.

I come home tonight and can’t stop thinking about the contrasts between the help in this movie and Mrs. Bowls.  I call my mom.  We talk a while and reminisce.  And then I ask about Mrs. Bowls’ cooking.

“Mrs. Bowls was a terrible cook.  She never cooked for us.  Oh, wait, she did cook.  When we went away and she took care of you, she cooked then.  You’d always complain how bad the food was when we got back.”

Funny, the things we forget.

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